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Classroom Struggle

Organizing Elementary School Teaching in the 19th Century

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Edited By Marcelo Caruso

During the institutionalization of mass schooling in the 19 th century, teaching large groups of children became both a necessity and a matter of regulation. For officials and inspectors the systematization of classroom interactions was important for effective results. However, while systematization could bring about the constant attention of children and their uninterrupted work, interactions themselves were difficult to control. Rationalized models of classroom organization provided alternatives for managing large groups before age grading became the dominant pattern of organizing interactions. The contributions in this volume explore diverse paths of transition towards modern classroom organization in different countries, allowing transnational perspectives and comparisons.
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Adopting Different Teaching Systems. Data from the Portuguese Extraordinary Inspection of 1875

The debate around the teaching modes8

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At the turn of the 19th century, the time when the establishment of the first national education systems in some European countries began and schooling increasingly became a shared experience to all segments of the population, the unsolved problem of the effective teaching system for elementary schools became imperative. Particularly “the old techniques of individual learning and training came under scrutiny and became an object for consideration.”1 The urgent problem in the field of mass teaching had to do with the proper execution of any kind of simultaneous teaching, by an adult or even by monitors, as the preferred form of ordering classrooms. Solving this challenge required finding a rational pedagogical organization, something that had taken place by the late 19th century. Thus, the progressive replacement of individual instruction – which, however, remained a central paradigm of reference for the classroom’s organization2 – with other more effective teaching modes largely took place in this century. It was a change closely related to the establishment of the certified teaching profession. The effort to rationalize education and the ‘scientific’ organization of teachers’ work eventually led to the organizational model of the graded school in the late decades of the 19th century. Its essence was basically the continuous effort to create school classes that were as homogeneous as possible. This process of changing ← 253 | 254 → mass teaching then defined a conception of school work which remains virtually unchanged until the present day – the so called grammar of schooling.3

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